Yesterday we accompanied the Lady deGloves to an event at American Players Theatre (APT) and we taught a lesson in a beautiful fashion. We taught a similar lesson, less elegantly, about 20 years ago. To explain why we need to explain the analogy between APT and the university.
Brenda DeVita, the APT artistic director, was meeting with a group of supporters ostensibly to plan a season at APT. The real lesson was: we really appreciate your support but you can’t have the plays you want because of all the constraints.
We faced a similar situation a couple of decades ago when accounting majors were in extraordinarily high demand. Every firm wanted to be the first on campus so they could get the top candidates. The Department worked with Career Services to create Accounting Career Expo (ACE) on Monday evening and Accounting Interview Days (AID) to follow immediately. That way we could avoid no.
The analogy is that APT is very much like a university. The comparisons are
Brenda is the department chair
The Core Company is the (tenure track) faculty
Other actors are academic staff
Directors are deans, albeit of one production
Supporters are supporters
Financial constraints are that seats must be filled
Brenda’s job is more complicated than a chair’s because almost all university performances are one-man shows while her shows are larger and often much larger. The nature of the chair and her position, however, is the same. Both of them have folks with awesome but not unlimited skills and often substantial egos that must be allocated to certain shows. The Core Company or the faculty gets first consideration. Other actors or academic staff fill needs and come and go. Director and deans always have big ideas. Both of them need to fill seats. Both need to add new supporters without alienating continuing supporters. Both need to accomplish much without much authority. Agreements are reached by discussing, convincing, and cajoling. We saw these attributes yesterday.
APT provided us with a nice dinner, plied us with alcohol, and brought in some of the performers to meet us (we met James Ridge who is wonderful as Cyrano) before moving into the Touchstone Theatre to design a season of APT. They encouraged and got lots of input and put together a season. Then they dropped “the math” on us. The plays most folks like have lots of actors. Not every actor can play every part. Actors can only do a few plays a season. There must be a Shakespeare comedy because “it is the gateway drug to the theatre”. We’re not sure if everybody got it but the point was clear: You can’t always get what you want.
We learned the lesson and are more aware of the constraints than almost anyone but still want to see Arsenic And Old Lace at APT. It only has 14 characters and the new stage will give them access to the Panama Canal. Our casting is almost complete but we are have trouble with Dr. Einstein.